The 2015 Cleft Medical Exchange: Billy, Ella, and Samuel’s Stories
We are just about two weeks away from the start of our 2015 Cleft Medical Exchange. We want to thank everyone for your kindness and generosity in sponsoring children for their surgeries. LWB is blessed with the most AMAZING supporters! We will of course be blogging each day during the week of the exchange, but we wanted to share a few stories of the children coming ahead of time, so that as you follow along that week, you will know some of their background.
For those new to this type of surgery, you should know that a cleft refers to any gap in a child’s soft tissue, bone, or both. Many people immediately think of a child’s lip, but some clefts involve not only the mouth and nose but other parts of the face as well. In 1976, the famous French surgeon Paul Tessier classified 15 different types of cleft. We will be assisting children with several different types on our upcoming exchange.
One of the boys who will be coming to our team is known in the adoption community as Billy. He is six years old and has a severe facial cleft. The formal name for his special need is “Bilateral Tessier #7 Cleft,” an extremely rare condition. Billy has been available for adoption for quite some time, but sadly he still remains unchosen. His orphanage reports that he is very self-conscious about his facial difference, and so we are thrilled that our medical team will be able to help him through surgery. His nannies say Billy is a very kind little boy who will gladly help them out with chores. He is also described as very tender-hearted towards the younger kids and will comfort them when they are crying.
His surgery will of course be a very complex one, and both surgeons will be working together in the OR. We are all hoping that having this life-changing operation will help Billy not only have more confidence about himself, but of course we are also hoping a family will read about him and want more information on making him their son.
Another one of the beautiful children coming to our team is baby Ella. This adorable ten month old has a bilateral cleft lip, which means that both sides of the lip are involved, impacting the entire middle section of the mouth area. Bilateral cleft lip repairs can often be very complex, and it is not an understatement to say the day of surgery is one of the most important days in the child’s life as the initial repair can impact all future surgeries as well. A failed surgery can leave scar tissue that is also difficult to correct. The doctor is not only a surgeon that day, but an artist as well, attempting to create a new appearance for the child when there is often the absence of the bottom of the nose and many times very protuberant premaxilla tissue (the part that is often “sticking out.”)
In Ella’s case, her surgery is even more complicated because she had a failed local surgery in January. This means her lip tissue that can be manipulated during surgery might be less than ideal.
Another child having surgery with our team is little Samuel. He is the six-year-old boy we featured last week on our blog who will be traveling for surgery from the Tibetan plateau.
His family is extremely impoverished, and we have heard that some children from this region don’t qualify for surgery due to anemia and malnutrition. Because of this, we have taken some steps to make sure he will have the iron levels he needs when he gets to our medical team, including sending some funding for his mother to buy him lots of eggs and meat. The family does not have the funds to have a family sheep or a yak, so she will also be buying him milk to drink the next two weeks.
We heard a really lovely story this week about Samuel that we wanted to share. When his parents learned that our team had accepted him for surgery, they took him to the Living Buddha in their region to give him a new name. They believe this is needed since he will soon have a new face – and subsequently a new life as well. His parents do not speak any Mandarin, so the mom will stay at home with his three siblings while the father and his uncle (who knows a few Mandarin words) will bring him to Henan province for the surgery. We will do everything possible to make this a very positive experience for them.
We invite you to watch this space for more news on the trip and then follow along the week of April 12th. This Cleft Exchange can only happen because of your incredible support, and for that we are TRULY grateful!